Omagh Bomb: 'Gardai must give public evidence in NI - not behind closed doors in Dublin' says Michael Gallagher

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An Omagh bomb campaigner says Gardai must give evidence to a public inquiry into the atrocity in the same way as their UK counterparts - and not behind closed doors in Dublin.

Michael Gallagher was speaking after The Irish Cabinet formally agreed to provide assistance to the UK’s inquiry into the Omagh bombing.

His son Aiden was killed when the Real IRA bomb exploded in the Co Tyrone town on August 15 1998, killing 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.

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The independent probe, which will be chaired by Lord Alan Turnbull, will examine alleged security failings that led a High Court judge to conclude the atrocity could plausibly have been prevented.

Omagh bomb campaigner Michael Gallagher says Gardai must give evidence to a public inquiry into the atrocity in the same way as their UK counterparts - and not behind closed doors in Dublin. Photo: PAOmagh bomb campaigner Michael Gallagher says Gardai must give evidence to a public inquiry into the atrocity in the same way as their UK counterparts - and not behind closed doors in Dublin. Photo: PA
Omagh bomb campaigner Michael Gallagher says Gardai must give evidence to a public inquiry into the atrocity in the same way as their UK counterparts - and not behind closed doors in Dublin. Photo: PA

The Belfast High Court recommended public inquiries in both NI and the Republic of Ireland, however Dublin refused.

On Tuesday Irish deputy premier and foreign affairs minister Micheal Martin and justice minister Helen McEntee secured approval to provide assistance to the NI inquiry at an Irish Cabinet meeting.

A Government spokesman said this “honours a commitment” given to Omagh families.

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The spokesman added: “Ireland has accepted the invitation of the inquiry chairman Lord Alan Turnbull to be represented at a preliminary hearing on the 30th of July.

He added: “Officials will now explore a memo of understanding for the State’s engagement with this upcoming inquiry.”

But Mr Gallagher has reservations about the assurances.

He told the News Letter: "I'm absolutely delighted that the Irish government has made this commitment. But we would have preferred that they would have set up their own inquiry in the south."

Mr Gallagher is concerned that Irish authorities may have made a decision after the Smithwick Inquiry found Garda-IRA collusion in 2003 that they would never again be embarrassed by a Troubles related inquiry.

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He rejected any suggestion that Irish officials might give evidence behind closed doors in Dublin, as happened with the Kingsmills Massacre inquest.

"In that case you'd be better going for a full Irish public inquiry in the south," he said.

It took an English TV investigation to open up the story of the Dublin Monaghan bombings, he said.

"They discovered that 1500 files went missing from the Garda archives; there was never any interest from the Irish government in discovering the truth."

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The Omagh man also noted that it took 50 years for a public inquiry to conclude that the 48 young people killed in the Stardust nightclub fire in Dublin were not responsible for their own deaths.

"So the Irish government must allow the UK inquiry to interview and listen to government and police witnesses from the Irish Republic about Omagh."

West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said the Republic has "lectured" the UK about Troubles legacy but "repeatedly failed to face up to the role it played".

"Many acts of terrorism were planned, prepared and launched from the Irish Republic," he said. "Countless terrorists sought safe haven there after engaging in those deeds."

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He said Dublin had given "no reason" for refusing its own public inquiry into the Omagh Bomb, which was also planned and executed from the south.

"They have failed to step up to the plate and given the history of foot dragging in the past, it is only action that will be believed rather than promises.”

The Irish Government was invited to comment.